Pros: Well-maintained aircraft, cheerful cabins, smartly dressed attendants, great schedules.
Cons: Air France can be expensive.
Christmas 2007 ~ New Year's 2008 was spent in Lisbon, Portugal, and since the trip was not planned-in-advance, using OnePass miles was a better option than buying a ticket; a round-trip economy ticket cost only 50,000 points. Since Air France is Continental#146s SkyTeam partner; I flew three segments on Air France and one on Continental.
Houston (IAH) Paris (CDG) Flight AF-031
This is a late departure flight, leaving Houston at 9:55 pm and arriving in Paris well into the afternoon, at 2:30 pm. My connecting flight to Lisbon was at 4:00 pm, which put AF to the test regarding baggage transfer.
Flying on December 23 can be chaotic, but for some reason, this flight was neither packed nor chaotic, and it turned out to be quite a pleasant experience.
Check-in and Boarding
Check-in in Houston was easy; the AF staff was very pleasant and helpful. Going through security was non-eventful, and within a few minutes of check-in, I was in the gate area, waiting for my on-time departure flight.
Just in case the in-flight food was bad, I ate a light meal at one of the restaurants in the International terminal, and purchased two apples to bring with me for a midnight snack, which turned out to be unnecessary.
We boarded the plane forty minutes before the scheduled departure time, and everyone settled into their seats quietly, without much fuss. I had a window seat (38B), and the seat next to me was empty, as was the row in the center isle. I decided to go for the empty row next to me once the plane's door closed; just in case I asked the flight attendant if I could, and he said go for it!
I thought the flight attendants travel uniform is very smart; once the flight got underway, they changed into a more comfortable uniform.
Tempo Class (Economy)
Air Bus 330-300
The cabin has a 2-4-2 configuration, with the seats offering lumber support, head rests with wings, seat width of 18, and a reclining angle of 118 degrees, which for economy class, seems to be standard .
The plane was in excellent condition and the seat upholstery was not worn-out. The bathrooms were kept clean and the entertainment equipment worked!
On every seat there was a good-size blanket and a pillow, both came in a sealed plastic bag, and a travel kit containing an eye mask, earphone, ear plugs, and a towelette.
Our Paris-bound flight departed on time! I kept thinking, how can I go to Paris, and not spend at least a day there? But, hubby was waiting for me in Lisbon, and thoughts of Paris soon disappeared!
The Houston - Paris In-Flight Experience
Would Madame care for an aperitif?
What? Really? What are the choices? I said to the Flight Attendant.
He smiled and said, Perhaps Madame would like champagne, beer, or wine before dinner?
Oui, champagne sil vous plaît and the flight attendant came around a couple of times offering more aperitifs well-done!
Dinner: The standard choices were offered to passengers: chicken, or beef, and they had a very good aroma.
I pre-ordered a kosher meal, which is served way before all other meals (I always get a kick out of the way people stare at me when I get my kosher meals). While Im not Jewish, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, and I appreciate and trust the conditions under which these meals are prepared; I always order kosher meals for my long-haul flights.
My chicken dinner proved to be incredibly tasty and beautifully prepared in a Mediterranean style; both my meals (inbound/outbound) were prepared in Paris, to which I attribute its fabulous flavor and expert preparation.
The dinner was accompanied by choices of wines or champagne; the flight attendants were not stingy! If you wanted a second or third bottle of wine (those small ones), it was yours for the asking!
The dinner service was uneventful and once the cabin was cleared of all trays, the lights were turned off and everyone settled in for the long, nearly 10-hours flight.
For those passengers with hunger pangs a few hours after dinner, in the galley, two baskets of goodies were laid out. Water and juice were offered throughout the flight.
Breakfast was served about one hour before arrival, and my kosher breakfast arrived before everyone elses meal heh!
The cabin service was efficient and friendly!
We landed in Paris ten minutes early, at 2:10 pm, which gave me one hour, fifty minutes to make my Lisbon connection. Would my bags make it?
Every seat is equipped with its own 12 video screen on the back of the seat in front. There were twelve movies on demand for Tempo passengers and they were fairly recent. The music selections were also very good.
Paris Lisbon Flight AF1924 - Airbus 321
Its December 24, the airport looks nearly deserted, so I was hoping my flight would be equally empty. When I arrived at the assigned gate for the Lisbon flight there was no gate-waiting-area per se, but it was an open area for all gates in that section. A long queue started to form, and it was obvious that this flight was going to be at maximum capacity. Everyone stood patiently waiting, and I appreciated the on-time departure!
In-Flight Experience The Airbus 321 is designed for the shorter haul flights with a seat configuration of 3-3. This aircraft is not particularly designed with the passenger's comfort in mind, but was built more like a true air bus: fast transportation in a safe manner!
Everyone quickly settled in, and newspapers were offered in French and Portuguese, and once the plane leveled off, the beverage cart went around with complimentary drinks, both soft and alcoholic. A tasty hot sandwich was offered on this short flight, and more free drinks could be had if desired.
The staff was very efficient, served quickly, considering the flight duration of 1.5 hrs.
My baggage arrived safely in Lisbon, and I was extremely pleased that the two bottles of champagne that I had carefully wrapped in bubble plastic arrived unbroken!
Lisbon - Paris Flight AF1325 - Airbus 321
This flight departed promptly at 10:30 am. A nice morning snack was offered: a warm croissant, butter and jam, as well as coffee or tea. No juice though!
Again the service was efficient, the flight attendants were warm and friendly, and they look very elegant in their designer uniforms.
My luggage was transferred to my Continental flight, Paris/Houston, and it arrived safely and in good condition.
"La Boutique" on Air
The Duty-Free shop is online on the AF website and you can find out before you fly whats available for that month. Alternatively, one can compare prices to see if the item is sold at a good price. Some items sold are unique to the airline and cannot be found elsewhere.
Would I fly AF Economy class again? Absolutely!
While the Air France economy-class cabins are not designed to be super comfortable, it is what it is: you've paid for a budget seat, but with AF there is a difference: the food is good, the condition of the planes is above grade, flight attendants are well-groomed and fashionable, while providing good service in a safe environment.
And what about those free-flowing aperitifs?! If I hadn't been sitting down, I could have fallen off my chair when the flight attendant offered me free champagne before dinner, and there after, all the wine I wanted! While I don't drink a lot, surely I appreciate a couple of complimentary glasses of good wine! On my return flight, Paris/Houston on Continental, I had to pay $5.00 for a lousy, minuscule bottle of wine!
Why do other people complain about this carrier? I dont know. I didnt find the attendants to be rude or cold maybe it was the fact that it was the Christmas holidays, and everyone was in good spirits, etc. Hard to say.
Nevertheless, I had a very good experience with Air France on the long-haul flight, and the two inter-Europe flights. Im a firm believer that if the passenger has a good attitude towards the flight attendants, they will in turn treat you very well, as has been my experience.
Thank you for reading.
This is my contribution to ifif1938 2008 French/English write-off.